52 Ways to Simplify: A 2021 Series

The Distil Union design philosophy of "less is more" stems from the idea that creating space for the activities and people you love — rather than for more things — can lead to a more fulfilled life.

But why do we urge you to #SimplifySmileRepeat? Our minimalism rejects fulfillment from objects and embraces the simplicity made by decluttering, organizing and editing in order to create opportunities for the truly important things.

However, to truly live this way takes discipline and constant reminders. In a world where we're inundated by ads tempting us with the latest and greatest, it's difficult to realize when you have enough. We realize some of this may seem counterintuitive coming from a retail business. Because, yes, we make objects — but our goal is to design those objects to fit seamlessly into your life, so you don’t have to spend any more of your precious time fussing, finding, tidying, and organizing. Outer order contributes to inner calm. Gretchen Rubin

So if you feel like you've got too much stuff in your space, we’ve got some great tips to battle unnecessary noise and visual clutter. Follow along with our "52 Ways to Simplify" series as we share our best hacks for every area of your life.


MagLock ScreenSavers protect your eyes against your screen's blue-light

Decluttering Your Digital Life

1. Use a Digital Password Organizer

If you keep your passwords on a single sheet of paper, this tip is for you. A written system works fine to a point, but can become cumbersome to maintain, and doesn't travel or age well... We recommend looking at Dashlane, 1Password, or enabling the built-in Keychain on your Apple device. Each of these allow you to generate super-secure passwords and store them super safely, so you’re the only one who can access them. Ah, enjoy all that brain space you reclaim when you no longer have to remember or type out passwords.

2. Battle Phone App Chaos

Do you have a ton of apps on your phone that you rarely use? If you can't bring yourself to delete them (do try that first), there's good news: There are ways to organize and access them! Like something you'd find at the Container Store if the Container Store sold containers for apps, Apple released a feature called the “App Library.” Use it to arrange apps in a storage area that's out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Be bold and move all but your most-used apps; you can still easily find them by using the search function, scrolling through the list or browsing through the icons. If you’re on Android, no sweat – you can easily replicate the App Library feature

3. Phone Addiction Habit Breaker

If you watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, you already know there’s a very intentional, scientific, profit-driven reason you’re so addicted to your phone. App designers know what keeps you hooked, but it's not inevitable.

You can counter some of those tactics with a few smart settings, including app time limits and turning off notifications. Interrupt mindless doom-scrolling by setting recurring timers for your iPhone to enter "Do Not Disturb" mode (that's "Focus Mode" on Android). If you're finding it hard to basically parental-control yourself, there’s a great app called Moment designed to help you limit your phone use gradually. Download that and it'll walk you through how to reduce your use.

4. Break up with Facebook (but Keep your Friends)

To combat time spent on Facebook specifically, we found a great way to make it less addictive: Distil your feed. On a desktop browser go to: Account > Settings & Privacy > News Feed Preferences > Unfollow. Just go ahead and unfollow all but your closest friends and family — and watch your endless feed become about two or three posts long. It’s seriously a game changer. To help spread the word, we made this easy way for you to share this tip with others using your profile pic.

5. Make Mobile Shopping Easy

Many Americans shop on Amazon because they carry nearly everything (not everything we make!), and Amazon makes it stupidly easy to check out. You can make your online shopping experience almost as easy by updating your credit cards and billing info in a digital wallet app like Google Pay or Apple Pay.

For next-level convenience, download Shop Pay and bask in benefits like instant login and order history for Shopify-based stores (like ours). The app also shows at-a-glance shipping status of purchases you’ve made from any shop. Bonus: When you checkout with Shop, the delivery of your order is carbon offset! And you know we love any lifehack that's also good for Planet Earth.

Decluttering Your Space

We continue our series with five tips to declutter your daily surroundings, like your work-from-home desk area. This section is all about boxes, and we'll introduce you to something called knolling – which we think you're going to love if you don't already...

For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned. Benjamin Franklin

6. Clutter Triage

Boxes do wonders as decluttering tools. Grab three empty boxes, tape and a marker. Label each one with something like “put away,” “give away” and “throw away.”

By categorizing your mess, you’re taking the first step to compartmentalize what's all around you and organize it into its proper place, where it will take up less space in your visual field and in your mind.

After you've categorized your mess, you’re halfway there. Put the contents of the "throw away" box in the trash. Put the "give away" box in your car or by the door, ready for a trip to a local thrift store or nonprofit who could use them. Finally, concentrate on that “put away” box. Having a portable box will help you easily restock those misplaced items back in their proper place.

7. Organize with Bins

Your stuff needs a home. Some folks like to have their stuff easily accessible at a glance, while for others, it has to be out-of-sight to be out-of-mind. First, assess what type of person you are and what will bring you peace, then make it so. In either case, organization bins can help. We’re hybrid in our approach, because we like to organize with clear bins and labels behind closed cabinet doors. The cabinet doors keep our visual field tidy, and the clear labeled bins allow us to easily locate what we're looking for. If you prefer your bins to be out in the open, you may want to invest in better bins that you like the look of to do a better job not just organizing but obscuring the mess.

8. Eliminate Duplicates

There are so many duplicates in our homes. You can make a lot of progress to declutter by coming up with a list of things in your home of which you have multiples. Have a look around your room, identify and reduce. I’ll go first sitting here in my office… 3 monthly planners, 2 notebooks, 3 pairs of scissors, 3 pen holder mugs, 4 chairs, 15 iPhone cables, 2 vacuum cleaners, 2 pencil sharpeners, 2 sewing machines, 5 rolls of tape (and 2 dispensers), an extra monitor, plus coins I’ll never use. I could go on — and this is after I’ve straightened up!

ModStation organizes your area with the power of MagLock magnets

Just pick a few things to eliminate, maybe one per day. Your goal is to get into the habit so that you learn to think critically about what you surround yourself with. Clutter is a never-ending battle, but with practice you can become better at resisting it.

9. Always. Be. Knolling.

What is it about things organized neatly? Flatlays. Outfit grids. Pocket dumps. It's so much more than just a trendy instagram post – it's called knolling, and it's a tremendously helpful skill to bring order to your everyday life. Taking a moment to knoll your tools or your desk will give you an instant feeling of zen. Everything is easily at your fingertips; sanity is restored. Watch Tom Sachs explain:

Tom Sachs explains How To Knoll


Fun Fact: Videographer Casey Neistat worked at Tom Sachs' studio, hence the familiar organization of tools in his wildly popular studio video (with 5,181,516 views and counting).

10. Measure Your Progress

Speaking of aesthetically pleasing photos, try to remember to take before and after pictures of your decluttering efforts! This will not only help you appreciate what a difference you’ve made, but seeing the proof that you can do it will motivate you to keep things clean and tidy in the future. Messes can be overwhelming, and sometimes we just need a little reminder of what life could be like with just a little effort.

Simplifying Your Wardrobe

Starting any simplification project can feel overwhelming, but giving yourself a few guidelines can certainly help ease the stress. Here are five steps for tackling your wardrobe. Buy less, choose well. Vivienne Westwood

11. The Easy First Edit

Open that closet door, take a breath, and take out any items that meet the following criteria:

  1. It’s in bad shape – stained, faded, worn, or ripped.
  2. You haven’t worn it in a year.
  3. It doesn’t fit.

Now that you’ve removed all those items, your closet should look a little lighter and less daunting. If you need one outfit for yard work or painting projects, this is a good pile to select from. Everything else, however, can stay in a pile for now. We’ll figure out what to do with all that stuff a little later. Buckle up, because we’re just getting started.

12. The Ruthless Second Round

This will be a bit more challenging since you're down to things you wear and in decent shape. Pull all of that out of your closet, it’s time to think about each piece. If you're not familiar with Marie Kondo's joyfully popular method of closet editing, to avoid sparking a lawsuit we'll simply suggest only putting items back into your closet that you truly love. Pick each item up one at a time and ask yourself, do I like the way I look in these pants? Do I really need four of these? Did 1996 call and want its JNCOs back (oh no, they’re back?!)? Be ruthless, your future simplified-life self will thank you for your honesty.

Hej Doll Hanger Tip

Bonus Lifehack: Try "the hanger trick" – as you hang all of your clothes back up, position them with the hook opening facing you. As you use the clothes, hang them back up the normal way. At the end of the year, you may be surprised how many clothes have gone unworn. You know what to do… Unless it’s the suit. Do keep the suit.

13. Be Mindful

For items that didn’t make the cut, you have options. Donating is probably your first instinct and while it can feel good, it's good to know what's going on behind the scenes: 

Globally, 80% of discarded textiles are doomed for the landfill or incineration. Only 20% are actually reused or recycled. –Remake

It’s important to be mindful of where our clothes end up, because sending them to the landfill should be your last resort. Fortunately, there are quite a few tools in your toolbox to ensure your clothing has a more conscious life after your closet:

If there’s something in your pile of rejected clothes because of stains or rips that you love, consider mending or dying it. The best thing you can do to combat the scourge of fast fashion is rehab older clothes. Check out Patagonia's DIY Repair tips, or send your Patagonia items to their Worn Wear program working to keep their gear out of landfills. Sharpen your sewing skills with Visible Mending techniques like these from Arounna Khounnoraj. Bookhou Visible Mending
Consider if there are any things you could do with your old clothes that would give them a new life. For instance, ship a pile of your old shirts off to Project Repat and get back a memory quilt you can keep forever. Cut up old clothes (especially tees) and use them as cleaning rags around the house. Or turn them into ca$h by selling the good stuff on ThredUP or at a local consignment store.

Be respectful by only donating items that are in good condition, and always wash your items first. Prioritize donating to local charities like a nearby homeless shelter or church rummage sale, or to an organization in your area that supports members of your community recovering from domestic abuse, or groups that help refugees (be they foreign or domestic – sort this amazing public spreadsheet by location). Being aware of who you're donating to helps cut down not only on waste, but also on the damaging practice of exporting items to other countries; read more about overseas exporting which often negatively impacts their local economies.

14. Find Focus

If you can get away with it, keeping a disciplined capsule wardrobe can help you gain both peace of mind and time by demanding fewer decisions. Now that you’ve paired down your wardrobe to only those items you love and wear, you may have a few gaps to fill in – but those can be done mindfully, depending on your lifestyle.

Try listing out your real needs for your daily life and see what you can get down to for a capsule wardrobe of essentials. I’ll start as an example: 

1 suit for weddings, funerals, and other formal occasions
4 pairs of pants - can be reworn multiple times. Black, gray, khaki, denim 
8 T-shirts - one for each day of the week + one for laundry day. Black, gray, blue, white
4 pairs of shorts - can be reworn multiple times. Black, gray, blue, khaki
5 work shirts - button-down long sleeve
5 work shirts - polo or short sleeved
2 winter coats/jackets - one casual, one dress
1 raincoat
4 pair of shoes - running/sport, two casual every day, formal

You should create your own list of course, I'm lucky to live in a climate that doesn't demand aggressive layering for survival!

If you can really think through your needs rather than relying on impulse buys that lead to closet creep, it will help you keep a tidy closet. What is willpower, amiright? Often, as humans, we think that if we get that one more thing, then we’ll be happy. If you can update your inner monologue to “if I can keep this closet tidy, I’ll be happy,” you might actually have a chance.

15. Dressing Forwards

Resist the urge to buy something on impulse because it's a good deal... Influential industrial designer Dieter Rams said it best: "less, but better." You should be shopping for items you love and that you look good in – and that you'll actually wear. Also, keep quality and durability in mind so you have your item in your collection for longer.

Here are a few more ways you can foster a conscious clothing cycle:

  • Consider buying second-hand, as local consignment shops keep money in the community.
  • Look for clothing made with recycled content.
  • Connect with friends to host a clothing swap
  • If there's an upcoming occasion that's tempting you to shop, instead consider renting an outfit – save money and space in your closet! 

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